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Deborah E. Barnhart

The following biographical sketch was created at the time of induction in 2017.

Deborah Edwards Barnhart is the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. The Center is the largest spaceflight museum in the world and serves as the Official Visitor Center for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and as a Visitor Center for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). It is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

Home to the world-renowned U.S. Space Camp®, U.S. Space Academy®, Aviation Challenge®, and Robotics Camp, the Center is Alabama’s leading tourist attraction. It showcases the latest in aerospace and defense technology initiatives along with international space artifacts including the world’s only complete full-scale Space Shuttle stack and the National Historic Landmark Apollo Saturn V moon rocket.

Barnhart’s career spans four decades of service in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. A retired Navy Captain (0-6), she was one of the first ten women assigned to duty aboard ships and commanded five units in her 26-year career.  

As vice president of three Dow 30 aerospace and defense companies, she served in manufacturing, business development, program and research management, and congressional lobbying for Honeywell International, McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing), and United Technologies Aerospace.

Barnhart is a recipient of NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest form of recognition awarded by NASA to a non-government individual. In 2015, she was awarded the Hometown Heroes award by Honeywell Hometown Solutions for her dedication to education through the Space Camp and Space Academy for Educators programs. In 2016, Alabama Media Group ( selected Barnhart as one of the 40 women who are shaping the State of Alabama. She is a member of the Smithsonian Affiliations Advisory Council and a Trustee on the Board of the University of Alabama in Huntsville Foundation. 

Barnhart earned her doctorate at Vanderbilt University and holds degrees from the University of Maryland, the University of Alabama Huntsville, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she was a Sloan Fellow. She resides in Huntsville.

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